Let me start by saying that as a rule, I’m a “less process is better” person to begin with. Having said that, I do understand that processes are required and in most cases can streamline systems to make your work life easier. The question then becomes, at what point do processes tip from being helpful to being a negative force on the system?
There’s a great little movie theater not too far from my home. I’ve been a customer and fan of the space since it opened. It is operated as a non-profit, with a volunteer staff doing everything from selling tickets to tending the snack counter. To me, the charm of the place was it’s laid back approach to operations. All the movies are first run and show only for a week at a time until the next movie comes in. When they opened, the box office would open at 6 for a movie that started at 7. You had two options in those early days. Pay for your ticket (they cost $2), and sit in your seat and read a book or visit for an hour, or place your jacket, or a towel you brought from home over a seat you wanted to save and go next door or across the street to one of the nearby restaurants and grab a bite to eat until the show started at 7.
As is often the case, this system sparked an entrepreneurial idea. The local print shop began making custom seat savers. A simple piece of cloth screen printed with the theater logo and if you wanted, your name. If you bought one, you didn’t have to leave your coat on a cold December night while you dashed across the street to dinner.
This is unfortunately where the story begins to go downhill based on process. First, the theater decided it wanted to be in the seat saving business and so the cute homemade seat savers were replaced by cards placed in plastic holders that fit over the back of the seat and had to be paid for at the time of your ticket purchase if you wanted your seat saved. This was followed closely by a new computer system that requires individual seats to be purchased and assigned. So in essence, it completely removes the ability to buy a ticket and go in to find a good seat at the time of the show. Even if you are walking up before the show starts, you have to select a seat, like you would at live theater or a sporting event. The ticket taker insists on collecting your name, address, and phone number to place it into the computer to finish the transaction. As a result, I recently attended a show that had only about 15 people in attendance and we were all sitting in the same row. The consequence of all this added process is that I’ll probably choose to see movies in a different location, even if the price is slightly higher and I have to drive further to see the show.
3 Things to Think About Before You Implement a New Process
Here are three things to think about before you decide to implement new processes in your organization:
- Ask yourself whether the process is needed. Not every problem is solved with a process. If one employee is abusing the travel and entertainment policy, deal with that employee by managing his/her behavior, not by creating additional processes, which may end up punishing the people who aren’t the problem.
- Think about who the process is intended to help. If you create a process to make life easier internally, but the same process makes things difficult for your customer, you aren’t doing yourself any good and in fact, may be making things worse.
- Review your processes on a regular basis. Times change. Processes that were appropriate at one point in your company’s history may not serve a purpose any longer. Get rid of those.